The Legacy That We Are Being Left With

Headline In a sane world you wouldn’t be reading a piece like this in the run-up to Christmas Day.  Then again, if this was a sane world I wouldn’t feel that I have to write it.

I wouldn’t feel that, because of the—let’s be kind, season that’s in it and all—dubious shenanigans from a particular group of people… well, put it this way: I may not want to write this, but the truth is that I have to write this.  There’s a big difference.

And if I did so until Christmas and the New Year celebrations were distant memories I could not begin to get across to you how utterly disgusted I am at how some people who should have known better, at the very least ethically known better, have behaved.

Yes, of course:  I’m talking of those who had their kitty-cat claws in the charity cookie-tin.  Those who threw a pose that said:  ‘I’m doing this because I think it is important to help….’  But as it turned out they seemed to think that the last part of the sentence was: ‘help myself.’

Did you ever see that great seventies movie Chinatown? If you didn’t, go out and rent it right now. It is brilliant.

There’s a scene in it where Jack Nicholson’s character Jake says to the horrendously wealthy old money gouger played by John Huston:

“When do you ever have enough?  How many houses can you live in? How many lobster dinners can you eat? When is having enough money, just enough?”

I found myself thinking of that scene a lot these past hideous days as more and more came to light on just how abysmally we have been suckered yet again by those who feel that entitlement is just a God-given right for them.

On Wednesday 11th at the Public Accounts Committee hearings the ex-CEO of the Central Remedial Clinic Paul Kiely, when questioned on whether or not he knew that his €200,000 lump sum retirement, tax free pay-out came from the money raised by honest fundraisers, replied:

“I do not want to say it is complicated, but it is.  It is complicated. “

Oh come on!  You would have been better off saying nothing whatsoever than coming out with that bilge.  Complicated? There’s nothing complicated about it!  You did know or you didn’t know. What’s complicatecashd about that?

You could —just as a wild example–have donated that tax-free lump over to us at Hand in Hand. Apart from being gobsmacked at such a huge sum, I can assure you that we would have found something good to do with it, no complications at all: like staying afloat for another year and a third; or maybe expanding into serving in another two counties. What is complicated about that?

Complicated! Life is complicated, not trying to remember who pays you.  That one is easy. And if you do have that problem then it’s probably God’s way of telling you that you were making too much money in the first place.  I know that I’m not exactly up in the stratosphere when it comes to having money but I don’t have a problem with remembering who pays me at all.  Maybe I should have been CEO.  At least my memory isn’t (selectively) unhinged.

And then there was acting chief executive Jim Nugent.  He seemed to get fierce confused altogether as to how many accounts he was dealing with.  Again, too many accounts are God’s way of telling you…what was it again?  That’s right, very good:  too much money.  And again we’re back to how many lobster dinners you can eat; how many houses you can live in.

If it comes to that, how many holidays can you take?  I haven’t done a head count but a lot of the main players seem to spend inordinate amounts of time out of the country.  Well, I guess that they would call it business.  You say tomato and I say tomato; you say business and I say holiday.

At least Brian Conlon, Chief Executive at the Central Remedial Clinic and former CEO of the Mater Hospital had the grace to say that he had ‘recently been abroad on personal leave’ when the CRC top ups were revealed.  Bertie Ahern (whose name has never been too far away in these proceedings) was much more entertaining, as indeed we would expect from an ex-Finance Minister who won all of his money by gambling on horses whose names he couldn’t remember at meetings he was never at.  He had been out of the country—on one of his €20,000 a pop talking shops, perhaps?—and his initial announcement was that he hadn’t heard any of it!  Honest! Not a word had reached his innocent ears.

What?  His ‘close friend’ Paul Kiely hadn’t wanted to worry him?  Or how about Jim Nugent, who was so fond of him that he helped him out in the ‘dig-outs’ that were one of the items investigated in the Mahon Tribunal.  And there we go again:  one man’s top-up is another man’s dig-out.

But wait!  Wasn’t that whole cock-and-bull story found to be a pack of (it’s Christmas, Brady!) untruths by the Tribunal?

And now that Mr. Ahern has been brought up to speed he has of course concluded that he knows absolutely nothing at all.  What a surprise.

As for CRC director David Martin:  well, he just thought that it was terrible that he should have to be answering questions in the first place. He treated the whole matter with a disdain that must have set the teeth of the decent fundraisers for the CRC on edge as he looked as if he was about to throw all of his toys out of the pram and started talking incoherently about ‘re-arranging the deck chairs’ on the good ship Titanic.  I guess he got that one right.

Ah well, not that it matters.  I’ll be surprised if anything comes of this, no more than most of us expected anything to come of that now-forgotten Tribunal.  Just as an aside, I did a few articles on the Mahon Tribunal over the years and at one point it had dragged on, to no discernible end, for so long that I actually couldn’t remember if it was still running or not; and I know that I’m not the only one.

Sure, the Board of the CRC finally resigned last Friday, but that was only when the HSE once and for all threatened to stop funding for the Clinic.  It’s not as if our heroes didn’t hold on to the bitter end.

I recently wrote on the Hand in Hand site:

“Listening to the government spouting outrage on the top-ups… well, to say that I find this a bit disingenuous would be to put it mildly. They didn’t know it was going on? Really? And if they didn’t, don’t you think that they should have?”

When I wrote that, I had no idea of how deeply most of the characters in this tragi-comedy were involved in politics, to some degree or other. Now that it’s all coming out in the wash I can’t say that I’m all that surprised. I think that with this and most scandals you just reach a stage where you are so browbeaten and sickened that you throw your hands in the air and wonder what’s the point in complaining at all.

The terrible thing, this time around, is that the greed of a certain group of people have made sure that those who are genuinely ill, those who are sick and those who are dying will suffer.

Many people will choose to show their outrage and disgust by simply stopping donations to charity of any kind.  If those same people were looking at December 15th issue of Sunday World, with its seemingly endless series of photographs of various CEOs and what they earn, then their resolve will be hardened when they think of what has happened at the CRC and elsewhere. Can you blame them?

This is the gloomy, despairing legacy that these characters have left for the honest fundraiser and charity worker.

Should they be made to pay back what came out of the jelly-jar?  Of course they should.  Will I hold my breath, waiting for that to happen?  You’re kidding, right?

It is vitally important that in the mind of the public all charity workers do not become just one indistinguishable group.  I repeat again:  the ones who will ultimately suffer are the sick, the dying and their families.

By all means, DO make your horror and disgust known; but please, for the sake of very vulnerable people, make sure your horror, anger and disgust is channelled towards the right quarters.